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College Student Buys Homeless Man a Cup of Tea - Soon It Turns Into $400,000
College Student Buys Homeless Man a Cup of Tea - Then Raises $400K for Him
Uplifting News

College Student Buys Homeless Man a Cup of Tea - Soon It Turns Into $400,000

It all started with one simple random act of kindness for a stranger.

Sanai Graden is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

So, when the 21-year-old UC Berkeley college student stumbled across a homeless man in Washington, D.C. asking for a cup of tea, she took it in stride and chalked it up to being in the right place at the right time.


And now? Thanks to that chance encounter, the man she calls "Unc" has been given a new lease on life...and a GoFundMe worth over $400,000.

A Chance Encounter and a Cup of Tea

Graden, who loves making TikTok videos, was randomly vlogging a trip to the grocery store when Unc (whose real name is Alonzo) approached her asking for a cup of hot tea. With the camera still rolling, she invited him to walk with her to Trader Joe's.

Along the way, the two strangers got talking and Alonzo gradually opened up about his troubled circumstances. He told Graden that he was homeless, has no family, and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

What began as a request for hot tea turned into a "five-hour journey."

Graden helped Alonzo refill his pain medication at two different CVS pharmacies, bought him tea at Starbucks, and even put him up in a hotel room for the night with money to buy food and a promise that Graden would find him again.

But she still wanted to do more for him. She posted a video documenting their time together on TikTok.

"It was crazy because I was going to get my groceries delivered and I decided to go on a walk," she tells Alonzo in the video. "And you were so nice, all you asked for was tea...I'm glad that you allowed me to help you and you were so kind to me and I really hope everything gets better for you."

At the end of the video, Graden told her followers that she wanted to start a GoFundMe for him. She meant it.

TikTok Video Goes Viral and a Gofundme Campaign Is Born

@hustlanani

Please help me help him !

Her video went viral. Insanely viral. It's garnered over 33 MILLION VIEWS and more than 5 million likes. But people didn't just open their hearts to "Unc," they also opened their wallets.

Graden did start a GoFundMe and it currently sits at over $400,000 with more than 27,000 people donating.

“I’m definitely a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and God put me at that place at the right time. I mean, I never document helping somebody, so the one time I was innocently just vlogging and then this all happened,” she shared in a follow-up TikTok. “It’s all a part of God’s plan.”

Graden's first order of business was getting Alonzo off the streets. She set him up at a hotel and took him shopping for new clothes at Target. She is also working on helping him get I.D., find permanent housing, and figure out his healthcare. She plans to have the money put into a trust so that it can be managed properly.

"I want to help make sure Alonzo receives the best possible care, and so I’m looking into every option to support his well-being, and also keeping in touch with him throughout this process," she wrote in an update on the GoFundMe.

One Good Turn Deserves Another 

People were so impressed by Graden's willingness to change a stranger's life that they decided to start their own GoFund campaign to raise money for her college education.

It currently sits at $24,000.

However, this feel-good story isn't without controversy. Based on recent news reports, it seems that Alonzo has a checkered past, including a criminal history. Graden addressed the news on TikTok and said that doesn't change anything for her.

"I understand the importance of second chances."

Sanai Graden

She continued, "If anybody knows what it feels like to need a second chance, it would be me. No one knows this but when I applied to UC Berkeley my senior year of high school I got denied. It was hard for me but I took what I learned from that situation and then I ended up getting accepted a year later."

“They gave me a second chance,” she said. “Also, you know, the man that is being portrayed in the media right now is not the man I met. The man that I met is very kind, down-to-earth, sweet, and super, super grateful.” 

The Power of Kindness Is Life-Changing

In fact, Graden's whole experience with Alonzo has inspired her to start her own nonprofit. And it's all about giving second chances.

"This is the start of something great."

Senai Graden

Oftentimes we think that what we do doesn't really matter. That one person can't make a difference. We underestimate the impact that one simple act of kindness can make.

And yet, all it took was one small gesture of goodwill to completely change not only Alonzo's life but Graden's as well. And there's no greater proof of the power of kindness than that.

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